New President and National Unity Government Announced in Afghanistan
The Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced yesterday that the Afghan people have elected Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai the next president of Afghanistan. The announcement came after a months-long audit of the June 14 runoff election vote and the signing of a power-sharing agreement between the two former presidential candidates to create a national unity government that has Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as Afghanistan's new chief executive.
Current President Hamid Karzai on Sunday congratulated both Ghani and Abdullah on signing the agreement. "I am very happy today that both of my brothers, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in an Afghan agreement for the benefit of this country, for the progress and development of this country, agreed on the structure affirming the new government of Afghanistan," remarked Karzai after the signing. A spokesperson for Karzai indicated that Ghani would be sworn in as President within a week.
The White House welcomed the signing of the national unity government agreement, noting that "this agreement marks an important opportunity for unity and increased stability in Afghanistan. The United Nations Secretary-General also applauded the agreement and the announcement of the new president-elect as "ending months of political uncertainty in the country."
Millions of Afghan men and women voted at the polls in both the April and June elections to determine the next president of Afghanistan, despite violence and threats from the Taliban. According to the IEC, women's participation in the first round of voting was 36 percent, and it rose to 38 percent in the June run-off.
During their campaigns, both President-elect Ghani and Dr. Abdullah talked about the importance of women's rights. After being announced as president-elect, Ghani said in a nationally televised speech that he is committed to ensuring that women are well represented in government, including on the Supreme Court, as well as in the education and economic sectors. Calling girls "future Afghan leaders," Ghani noted that women in Afghanistan have equal rights in society and government.
Ghani also spoke about the historic importance of the election. "This victory isn't just about winning an election. It's a victory for democracy, for our constitution and for our future," Ghani said. "Together, we have turned the page and written a new chapter in our long and proud history - the first peaceful democratic transition between one elected president and another."
With the unity government formed and the election results announced, it is expected that Afghanistan will now sign the bilateral security agreement (BSA) with the United States. The BSA outlines continued US assistance to strengthen the security in Afghanistan, provide humanitarian aid, and support economic and civic development. The agreement provides no combat role for US troops. The BSA was already approved by the Loya Jirga, a council composed of 2500 members including Afghan political, community, business, youth and non-profit organization leaders, but President Karzai would not sign the agreement before the elections. Ghani has said publicly that he would sign the agreement.
Media Resources: Associated Press 9/22/14; BBC 9/21/14; RT 9/21/14; The White House 9/21/14; UN News Centre 9/21/14; Afghan Independent Election Commission 7/7/14; Khaama Press 4/26/14, 4/3/14; Feminist Newswire 6/16/14, 6/13/14, 6/5/14, 4/28/14, 11/27/14, 11/22/13